AREA ROUNDUP: W-H-A’s path back to state begins this week
WALKER — With the Northland Conference title and the top seed in Sub-Section 8A East in hand, the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley boys basketball team begins defense of its 8A championship 6 p.m. Thursday at Bemidji State when it will face the winner of Tuesday’s game between No. 8 seed Clearbrook-Gonvick and ninth-ranked Laporte.
Thursday’s other sub-section quarterfinal contest at BSU sees No. 5 Blackduck facing No. 4 Fosston in a 7:45 p.m. game.
Bemidji High School is also hosting a pair of 8A East battles on Thursday. At 6 p.m. second seed Red Lake will tangle with the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between seventh-ranked Mahnomen and No. 10 Lake of the Woods. Thursday’s 7:45 p.m. contest at the high school finds No. 3 Cass Lake-Bena squaring off against either sixth-ranked Northome-Kelliher or No. 11 Bug O Nay Ge Shig. Those teams met Tuesday in Northome.
Thursday’s winners will head to the REA in Thief River Falls for the remainder of the sub-section and section action. The sub-section games will be 3:30 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. Saturday at the REA and the sub-section title game will be 7:45 p.m. March 4.
The East and West sub-section winners will square off at 7 p.m. on March 7 for the Section 8 championship and its reward, a trip to the state tournament.
Northern Freeze earned the top seed in the West Sub-Section 8A and Fertile-Beltrami is ranked second.
WHA finished the regular season 21-4 and was 13-1 in the Northland Conference. Red Lake (19-7, 12-2) was only a game behind the Wolves in the league standings and Cass Lake-Bena (20-5, 11-3) was right on Red Lake’s heels.
Blackduck (16-10, 6-8) and Nevis (12-12, 6-8) shared fourth place in the conference standings and were trailed by Northome-Kelliher (14-10, 5-9), Pine River (6-20, 3-11) and Laporte (7-18, 0-14).
Independent Clearbrook-Gonvick ended its regular season 8-18.
In Section 8-2A, Bagley is the seventh seed and will begin its postseason Thursday at No. 2 East Grand Forks.
The Flyers will bring an 8-18 overall record into the playoff quarterfinals. In the Pine to Prairie Conference chase Bagley was fifth in the North Division with a 5-11 record. Fertile-Beltrami was the division champion, posting an unbeaten 16-0 record against league opponents and a 22-5 overall record.
Skersick leads Flyers
The area girls basketball teams complete their regular seasons this week and make their final preparations for the section playoffs which begin on Monday.
Bagley finished its year 15-11 overall and 1-6 in Section 8-2A. Based on the current QRF rankings, the Flyers probably will be the eighth seed in the sub-section playdowns and could be involved in a play-in game against BGMR (10-15, 0-5 sub-section) on Monday, most likely at Bagley.
Leading the Flyers will be Kari Skersick who, earlier this winter scored her 2,000th point and grabbed her 1,000th rebound.
Pequot Lakes is the likely top seed in the sub-section and East Grand Forks currently ranks second.
In Section 8A East, WHA and Red Lake are battling for the top spot. The Wolves own a 75.9 QRF while the Warriors are a close second at 73.7. A distant third is Clearbrook-Gonvick at 49.9.
Walker-Hackensack-Akeley also leads the Northwoods Conference with a 13-1 league record and Pine River is a game back at 12-2.